One evening after the kids were in bed, my husband and I were relaxing and listening to Podcasts together. As usual, I was crocheting, because even when I’m relaxing, my hands need to be busy. My husband looked at me and said something along the lines of...
“Crocheting is basically like...witchcraft”.
Me: What do you mean?
Him: Well, you start with just yarn, and you make all these knots, and then it magically turns into something.
Because I tend to be a bit literal, and also because sarcasm is my native tongue, I almost responded with something along the lines of, “It’s not magic...it’s math!” when I stopped myself. I realized he was onto something. Sure, crochet at its most basic is a collection of stitches, cleverly arranged based on patterns and numbers, but the end product is more than those stitches quantified. It is a process of transformation and transmutation that begins long before the yarn even enters the artists’ hands, beginning with rain and the sun that nourishes the plant or the animal whose fibers eventually are spun into something beautiful that can be woven. There is science and mathematics in play at every step of the process, but there is also something that can’t be quantified by the weight of the skein, the gauge of the yarn, or the number of stitches produced.
In a word, there is magic. There is magic in any craft, whether it’s sewing, baking, knitting, crocheting, woodworking… the list goes on. And while the long journey from stardust to sweater is in itself magical, I believe that we can make our creations even more magical by creating with intention.
When I think about creating with intention, I try to hone in on the reason why I’m making something. For me, this is really important to do periodically, because it reminds me that the goal shouldn’t be to create something to boost my ego or because I want everyone to admire my work, but because I want to show my love and appreciation for others. It should be because I want to make beautiful things to make the world a better place, or because I want to bring joy into my home or someone else’s.
Of course, there are other intentions beyond love and appreciation that we can focus on as we make something (determination, hope, confidence). The point is that creating with purpose is powerful, if intangible. I think we can all agree that cookies baked with love taste better, even if we can’t exactly quantify the reason why. We all have had, or know a child who has had, a homemade blanket or teddy bear that they love above all else. Intention is that secret ingredient, that pinch of pixie dust that can turn an everyday object into something extraordinary.
No matter if you’re a baker, a sewist, a crocheter, a knitter, a combination of these things, or a creator of another type altogether, here are my best tips for creating with intention so you can add a touch of pixie dust to every creation that leaves your hands.
1. Choose Materials Thoughtfully
Who are you making it for? Yourself? Someone else? Think about what you know about them and the things they enjoy, but also think about what they need right now. If it’s wintertime, they may need a hat or mittens, sure. But maybe they are also struggling with a big change, experiencing a loss, or have a big life event coming up that is wonderful but also makes them nervous. As you craft something for that person, choose materials and design elements that capture their individual personality, but also invoke feelings of support, appreciation, love, confidence, or whatever else they may need. While we all sometimes make things out of whatever we have on hand or whatever is on sale, it's best if your base materials reflect the recipient in some way. This goes for you too if you’re making something for yourself!
If you’re creating items to sell, you can still practice this by thinking about the potential recipient. For example, if you're making something for a new mother or a new baby, you may focus on materials that invoke hope and joy. If creating for the home, look for items that inspire feelings of safety and comfort.
2. Focus on Your Intention As You Work
When I am creating, I usually get into some sort of rhythm. For example, when I crochet I often repeat a beat in my head to help keep track of the stitches. When I sew, whether I’m cutting fabric or actively stitching, I usually get into some sort of groove. If I’m trying to infuse intention into my creation, I will repeat that intention to this natural rhythm. For example “Con-fi-dence”. Or “Yes-You-Can”. This will help focus your energy, much like repeating a mantra during yoga helps to set your intention for your practice.
3. Don’t worry about imperfections
Of course, we don’t want our end results to be a total mess, but some small imperfections here and there add character and warmth to your creation. So what if you skipped a stitch ten rows ago? If it doesn’t alter the functionality of your creation, just let it go. Most likely, no one will notice except for you, and often those “mistakes” add depth and beauty to your design. Traditional makers of handmade Persian rugs often make small, deliberate mistakes, and their creations are still gorgeous!
Also, undoing your work and starting over to fix a tiny mistake can leave you impatient and frustrated, which can make it harder to create with intention.
4. Draw from your memories:
What memories do you have of the person? Or if you’re creating something for an unknown recipient, what memories do you have of someone who is similar to your potential recipient? Memories that invoke the feelings you want to infuse in your creation will help to reinforce your intentions and make those feelings stronger. For example, if I’m making a winter hat, I might think about the first time I took my son skiing, and all of the excitement we had for our first trip out together.
5. Define Your Creative Space
You don’t need to go all out and set up your perfect creative workshop. I often work on projects while we’re traveling or when I’m sitting in bed watching TV. However simple things like lighting a candle, making a cup of tea or coffee, or (literally) putting on your creative hat can set the mood for creativity. Certain tastes and scents can also trigger feelings and memories that reinforce the intentions behind your work. I’ve also heard of creators who have a special hat or sweater that they wear that they swear helps get them in the mindset to create their best work. Wherever you are, taking a moment to organize your materials and set the mood can go a long way toward helping you get into your creative space.
I encourage you to try these tips the next time you’re working on a project, whether it's for someone else, for you, or for your household. As creators, the items we make are more than just objects, and they are more than the sum of the materials that go into them. They are a physical manifestation of our time, our care, and our intentions. That little bit of extra pixie dust really does add something intangible and magical to the end product.
If you're interested in more of my thoughts on crafting and creativity in general, be sure to check out: